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  • "Showbiz Kids" (2020 release; 94 min.) is a documentary about kids achieving childhood stardom in Hollywood. As the movie opens, we are informed that each year over 20,000 kids audition, but that 95% of them never get offered a role. We then go to the 1920 as we watch Diana Serra Cary (a/k/a Baby Peggy) become a breakout star before she is 5 yrs old. The movie then shifts to today, as we get to know a (10-11 yr. old?) boy from Orlando, Marc Slater, and his mom Melissa, making the rounds in Hollywood to try and land an audition and then an actual role. From there the movie takes us to Henry Thomas, who starred in "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" and now looks back on his childhood years in Hollywood. At this point we are 10 min. into the documentary.

    Couple of comments: this is the latest documentary from Alex Winter, who of course himself achieved early Hollywood fame in "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" in the late 80s and nowadays frequently makes documentaries. In this film he examines the long shadows of early Hollywood fame and fortune. While a slew of child actors and actresses are featured, the movie really focuses on 4 individuals: Henry Thomas, Wil Wheaton ("Stand By Me"), Evan Rachel Wood ("Thirteen"), and Cameron Boyce (multiple Disney TV shows). The common theme is undeniable: most of them didn't ask for it and/or were pushed by ambitious parents who saw their talented kid as a ticket out. "It's not a normal experience", comments Thomas. Wood goes further than that and laments the lost childhood she'll never get back, not to mention the poisonous environment that Hollywood is for young kids (fertile ground for sexual abuse, among other things). Saddest of all in this is of course watching Cameron Boyce, knowing that Boyce passed away last year resulting from a complicated epilepsy. Boyce observes: "Do you want to be my friend for being a friend or because I am on TV? That is tough to figure out as a kid." So true. Equally sobering is to see how few of the childhood stars can make the transition into an adult career (there are of course exceptions such as Jody Foster, Natalie Wood, Judy Garland, etc.). But the overall tone of the documentary is very clear, and should be a warning sign to any parent seeing stars in the sky through their kid.

    "Showbiz Kids" premiered on HBO this week, and is now available on HBO On Demand and other streaming services. If you have an interest in film or in Hollywood in general, I'd readily suggest you check this out, and draw your own conclusion.
  • It was still interesting to hear some of the stories. I think Evan Rachel Wood, Mara Wilson, and Milla Jovovich were probably the most interesting because I'm the same age as Milla and I remember when she first came on the scene. She was gorgeous and to hear her talk about older men coming at her was not a surprise, but still sickening that they would take advantage of a young girl. Mara Wilson there was something different about than the others with how she talked. Then Evan Rachel Wood doesn't give AF. She is brutally honest. They all had stories like film critics and such trashing on the performance of a child which made me think of Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker in the phantom menace and the way people unfairly piled on bashing a young kid when yeah he was not great, but he was far from the issue with that movie. So you're not going to get a finding Neverland experience and thank god because that was hard to take. You will get a inside look at many different views on how they were treated by family, fans, critics, etc. I enjoyed it. I also had no idea that Cameron Boyce died over a year ago. I didn't know who he was, but he did seem like a positive guy so that was depressing to learn. Bottom line is this. I never felt like shutting it off. It kept my interest.
  • I found this movie quite interesting as it interviewed several former child stars as they discussed their experiences in show biz at a young age.

    The documentary covers a lot of familiar territory we have heard before. It does a great job of pointing out some stage parents who may have pushed their kids into show biz to live vicariously through them, how the constant interviews consume so much of the family's free time and how odd it seems that the kids would spend most of their time working instead of having a childhood.

    It goes further discussing the pitfalls of fame and the effect it had on many young stars such as the uncomfortable invasion of privacy and problems finding true friends. It mentions briefly the exploitation that young stars could be exposed to. It mentions the effect that negative film reviews have on the child star as criticism can be taken personally. The film doesn't use this example, but think of Star Wars - The Phantom Menace and how Jake LLoyd was personally pointed out as the cause of the film's failure. The movie could also have mentioned the effect of overly positive reviews - i.e. When the stars believe their own press.

    There are a few points where the film could have gone further that would have improved the movie; why do some become successful adult actors while others don't (think Freddie Highmore vs Corey Feldman)? The movie points out many child actors who run into problems later in life. The film could have addressed the issue of how Hollywood might, or might not be the cause of these kids problems. They don't bring up other factors, such as familly life, that would have an effect. Many child star's families had serious issues before getting in to show business, which the film doesn't touch on (when it could have gone in to more detail). Corey Feldman details this in his autobiography, which isn't covered in the film.

    The interview with Todd Bridges mentions his family got torn apart by greed over the money coming in. I'm sure there could have been many other examples of how the money from show business and its influence on the family and young star could have helped the movie quite a bit.

    A final topic could have been brought up - what about former child stars who felt it was a more positive than negative effect ?

    Otherwise, the film is a somewhat insightful look at child stardom.
  • rarepeperonis25 August 2020
    This is really well made with a variety of real child actors always wondered what happened to the "Matilda" girl. She is unrecognizable.

    The film cover many subjects equally like mental illness, family, school, stress, money, do they do this for their parents and of course child abuse. But i think they covered every topic really well usually these things focus almost only on child abuse but even a kid that was never abused it could be hell for many other reasons.

    Felt kinda sad for the little boy going to all these auditions, he clearly dosen't have the fire in him, it's more than just liking to act goofy it's a serious craft i don't think he realizes that. His mother that says next to him that if he dosen't do it she basically failed as a mother..jesus pressure much..

    On the other way felt really happy about the little black girl and her mother she really look passionate and have that thing where you know it will work out for her.
  • asc8519 July 2020
    This really was a pleasant surprise, and I found it to be quite insightful. With the exception of Jada Pinkett Smith, I found the former Showbiz kids who participated to be very direct and forthcoming without all the drama. I was particularly impressed by what Evan Rachel Wood had to say, and she was extremely articulate. I really wonder how many former child stars were initially interviewed for this movie, but were then cut because they weren't very forthcoming about their experiences. It can't be that these were the only people they interviewed, and they all just happened to be so interesting and forthcoming.
  • We get random parents who are force feeding their kids child acting with no backstory in the middle of these woes and tribulations of childhood actors, and it feels very odd.

    I do feel somewhat bad for these kids (most now adults), but especially the ones with actor-parents, this was something they should have steered wide right of when it came to getting their kids involved. There's absolutely no way these parents had zero clue what was going on beholding the curtain, and we're really not shocked to learn that Hollywood is the giant cesspool we all knew it to be.

    I've felt myself falling away from most things like cinemas (well before covid hit) and avoided anything like self-congratulatory like awards shows precisely because of the entire cult of personality and the vapid need for relentless approval from us 'lowly peasants' that provide them with their grandiose lifestyles.

    That they're gleefully pulling their omnipotent offspring into their demonstrable hubris should be viewed as child abuse.
  • Really interesting and genuine interviews however there are no follow ups, no expansion the presented subjects and anything interesting is a one liner. Love the people and ideas presented in this film and I wish the filmmakers hadn't failed to weave and creative a more compelling piece.
  • jesser29916 November 2021
    It's fascinating to hear from the (now) adults behind some of TV and movie's biggest childhood stars. Everyone's experience of childhood fame is different but it all comes back to the fact that their childhood was anything but different. Years later, it's interesting to see how that impacted them and how they processed it, for better or worse.
  • This film really shows the emotional toll that child acting takes on people.
  • "Showbiz Kids" is a fascinating documentary from Alex Winter (of "Bill And Ted" fame). An insightful, sometimes dark and deep look into the world of childhood stardom. . In this documentary, former child stars discuss the highs and lows of children in show business. . Featuring interviews with some of the biggest stars then and now, "Showbiz Kids" teaches us of the real troubles child stars face when growing up in a toxic Hollywood environment. It's a subject most of us ignore as we enjoy being entertained but, the majority of these stars are damaged. Overall a good doc that should catch the attention of everyone looking to dive into this specific subject. . Follow @snobmedia for more reviews!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Okay watch for a rainy Sunday but other than touching on a few people's general history in acting and a few off hand mentions of child abuse there really isn't much new knowledge or focus brought to the issues facing child actors.

    The editing is kind of incoherrant and it doesn't really seem to know what it wants to be. Is it supposed to be a mini child actor documentary? A commentary on how children in "the biz" are treated? Or something else? It doesn't seem to know it's focus and quite frankly neither do I.

    Too much time was wasted on current child stars as well with storylines like wanting to go to summer camp that add nothing, in fact actually detracts from it. Some of the people interviewed are also completely unlikable with no charisma and rather than feeling for their situation you just kind of feel resentful towards them for complaining about the great opportunities other people would kill for.

    The Good: Milla Jovovich, Mara Wilson, Henry Thomas and Todd Bridges. All were great interviews, shared a lot of personal information and you really get a feel for the hardships kids face growing up and out of childhood "cuteness" and how it can leave you feeling empty inside when you're no longer wanted.

    Milla is an actual Goddess and icon, fight me.

    The Bad: Cameron Boyce, Marc Slater and Demi Singleton. Too much time wasted on them that nothing for the plot of the dicumentary or add to it in any meaningful way. Honestly those parts should've just been edited out and replaced with more from Milla, Mara and Todd. I wanted much more information from them but as soon as they really started getting into information it would switch to one of the annoying children showing off for the camera. Seriously good on Cam for getting those gigs but he added nothing what-so-ever. No adversity, no hardships, nothing. Just being a good boy and listening to what people told him to do. Honestly all three current kids were a waste screen time in this.

    The Ugly: Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Wheaton and Evan Rachel Wood.

    Jada's appeareance served zero purpose and never should've been added. She's creepy and weird with all the fake Oprah pseudo-intellectual psychobabble and bangs her kid's friends that suffer from addiction. She added nothing besides faking sincerity continuing to attempt to p*** out her kids kardashian style to the entertainment industry which thankfully doesn't care about them. Both of her children are so out of touch with reality I would just be complely embarassed with myself if I were Jada, unfortunely that would take humility and self awareness, things she severely lacks.

    Will Wheaton is one of the most uncharismatic and unlikable people I have ever come across when it comes to actors. Even on Reddit he has this insufferable air of condescension that oozes out of him and I just cannot stand the man. All that he did was whine the entire time so much so in fact that I skipped past every part he appeared on screen. What a grating individual.

    Evan is SO whiny. Has gotten everything she ever wanted, high praise, beauty, acting skills, money, fame, adoration and all she does is complain about it. She seems so ungrateful and spoiled. I lost a lot of respect for her after this appearance.

    All in all it's alright if you can ignore about 30-40 minutes of totally wasted screen time. Would've been much better off focusing on Milla, Mara, Todd, Henry and Diana Serra Cary (Baby Peggy rip). Everyone else was pretty much wasted air time.

  • Warning: Spoilers
    Showbiz Kids is my latest review. It's a documentary without an arc. It has no beginning, no middle, and no clear-cut end. Still, I must say that every child actor and their parents needs to give it a look-see. It might prevent Hollyweird from taking another one down.

    So OK, "Showbiz" is a docu that doesn't need flash or overindulgence to get its point across. It's just a self-effacing portrait of troupers recalling what it was like to work in the film industry via a fairly young age. Evan Rachel Wood, Milla Jovovich, and Wil Wheaton put their two cents in. Oh and Todd Bridges gets thrown into the mix cause well, you just knew he'd be included.

    Showbiz Kids gives us the usual interviews and the usual archive footage. But by hook or crook, it still hits you pretty hard. At 95 minutes "Showbiz" with its "call backs" as subsequent metaphor, just gets darker and darker (and darker). The rabbit hole here is uh, a real pisser.

    The director of Showbiz Kids is none other than Alex Winter (Bill from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure). Winter skimps on the usual documentary style as he goes for talk show moments from stars a la "where are they now?" Alex doesn't want these laddies or lassies to recall the good times of being on screen. He rather wants them to warn and heed the dangers of being a child star cooked by the cold stodgy-s of sunny LA.

    I'm a film buff, I love movies, and I when I write reviews, I tell it like it is. But I have sympathy for what these people have gone through with fame, haggled money, and such. Yeah I've seen some of their flicks and I've disliked some of their stuff but I've only viewed it from the outside. For that I am sorry. These "kids are alright" in my book.
  • stephiemark-984105 August 2020
    Too bad Alex Winter got bought off and watered down what could have been a ground-breaking documentary. Hope the cash was worth your soul dude.
  • Reality is that some children live in the Hollywood experience and emerge as capable, accomplished, and happy adults. Others do not. However, the same can be said about youngsters pushed toward high-level sports. Or music. Or dance. Or academics.

    Reaching maturity successfully depends on numerous factors but thoughtful, unselfish, and caring adult influences might be the most important.

    Alex Winter spent his life in the entertainment business, so it was reasonable for him to focus on experiences of people who worked as child actors. Winter understands the risks and rewards of the entertainment business but his documentary would have been more complete had he taken a wider view.

    Another documentary could examine the processes of very young people chasing "success" in other fields. I would bet the adults that emerge are a similar mix of happy and troubled people.
  • jazzina-9985118 July 2020
    Great concept, dreadful execution. Bad job, Bill. Of all the fascinating subjects at your disposal, you picked the dozen most boring.